Sunday, December 07, 2014

My Mission Partner

I remember the first time Raquel and I showed up on campus. We were both newbies, just getting used to all the new and strange things. Now we feel much more at home here.

But today, this girl, my mission partner, is leaving to fly back across the ocean to our homeland. (I will be staying here for a few more months.) I think it's safe to say that she is not excited to leave this place - this special place where 300+ precious students come to learn.

I know we've both grown in many ways over the last few months. We've been through a lot together and I'm going to miss so much about her.

Here's just a few of the highlights:
  • Deep conversations under our mosquito net at night - She really got me thinking sometimes.  
  • Our plans for having short prayers in the evening didn't happen - I won't exactly term them short, sometimes they got pretty long... but that was ok. 
  • Taking a cold bath together in our sarongs - If you were nearby, you'd probably hear a few shrieks and outbursts...
  • Getting covered in sweat and dirt and then getting drenched with rain on our intense hike up the jungle mountain... and yet enjoying every minute of it. 
  • Laughing at each other's jokes - sometimes actually rolling on the floor laughing (You know what I'm talking about, Raquel ;)
  • Comparing teaching experiences and funny classroom moments with each other 
  • Seeing her carefree curls bounce up and down as she hurries across campus to her next class
  • Getting into funny, embarrassing situations together - like when we snuck up on a sleeping visitor with one of the girls and then ran away (very rapidly to say the least) when he started to stir. 
  • Oh yeah, the amazing back massages she'd give me sometimes after a long day 
  • And so much more...
I'm grateful that this girl was willing to come on this adventure with me - all the way across the ocean to be teachers together in this foreign land. We've made so many memories that have bonded us together. I look forward to making more fun memories with her in the future.

Thank you, Raquel, for being my mission partner and letting God use you to touch the young lives at Sunshine Orchards! I know the students will miss you too!

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
 The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 
Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, November 03, 2014

Weekend Adventures

This last weekend the Steck family, Raquel, Hailey & I went on an adventure to see some new places in Thailand. I'll take you on a little photo journey through our weekend. 

 One of the many beautiful views during our car ride

 The old station wagon - almost ready to leave. 

We spent the night in a hotel in Mae Sariang (about 2.5 hrs from the school).  It was so nice to have warm showers and real beds to sleep on there. 

On Sabbath morning we enjoyed a special breakfast while we watched Ouachita Hills Friday night vespers live. Raquel's sister gave an encouraging message for her senior speech. It was so nice to see all of my family members come up on the screen during the program. We were so thankful to have a faster internet connection to be able to watch it.  

 Here's the five of us girls - Hannah, Sharon, Raquel, me, and Hailey - by a painting at the hotel. 

They're a fun bunch to hang out with. :)

After we packed up we headed up to the highest mountain in Thailand. The road was steep, curvy, and bumpy, but the views on the way up were beautiful. Once we arrived at the top, we weren't able to see very much because of the clouds, but we enjoyed our time nonetheless. 

Hannah Marie & Hannah Joy :)

We had to pull out our jackets because it was chilly due to the higher elevation. 

 We had many photographers on our trip. 

We ate our lunch at the top of the mountain. The school's cook had sent some special curries (fake meat curries with garlic, tomatoes and onions) along with us for our picnic.

Notice the sign (7 - Living Together). 
We thought it was an appropriate place to get our extended Steck family picture. 

We enjoyed a hike through the jungle after lunch. 
Here's another pic of our adopted family 
That was a big tree!

 Enjoying the view arm in arm

The front view - with a random Thai guy

A pagoda at the top of the mountain - made in honor of the King of Thailand. 

We enjoyed the view and tried to stay warm while Mr. Steck read to us from an inspiring book called "One Miracle After Another." We almost read the entire book during our weekend trip. I've read it before, but it's definitely worth re-reading. We serve a powerful God! 
(If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so.)

We then drove over an hour to a campsite near the gorge. 

Our little campsite the next morning - I enjoyed sleeping in my hammock. :) 

We had our breakfast by the rushing river. 

The Sunday morning breakfast that chef Hannah (Hannah Steck that is) had prepared -
Spaghetti, homemade spaghetti sauce, papaya, pineapple, bread & more. 

We then walked to the nearby gorge and hiked a trail that had another nice view at the top. 
Walking across that bridge at the top of the gorge was exciting. :)  

 Next we drove back to Mae Sariang and down a long, pot-holed, bumpy road to the Salawin River. 

We took a boat ride just before dusk - the temperature was perfect. 

I looked a little dusty from our drive out there. 

 The other passengers on our boat ride. 

We had a wonderful time. I will always treasure these memories with friends. 
We made it safely back to the school at a late hour on Sunday night and thankfully we were all in one piece. Praise the Lord for His protection over the many miles we traveled!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's Time For Class!

Disclaimer: Part of the reason I haven't blogged in a while is because my computer is out of commission at the moment. I've had to borrow other people's computers for things like this. (Many thanks to Raquel for sharing.) I would appreciate your prayers that it would be able to be fixed very soon. It also seems like the longer I'm here the more I have to do and less time I have to do it in. I never have a lack of things to do for sure.

Here's a little glimpse of my teaching experiences here. I will try to give you a word picture of what a typical day of teaching is like. (Pictures of classes will be coming soon).

It seems like every morning I have at least a little measure of teacher's anxiety. I have many thoughts and questions running through my head… What should I teach today - phonics, grammar, vocabulary or reading? How can I teach this in a way that they can understand? How can I keep the lesson interesting to a room full of teenagers? How can I make sure that each individual student is really grasping the new concepts? What's the best way to keep order in the classroom and keep the students from chattering with and distracting each other?

Amazingly, my God helps me pull something together to present to the class time and time again. Praise be to Him! Of course some days run a lot smoother than others… Thankfully, I can learn from my mistakes and trust the Greatest Teacher of all to give me the strength and wisdom I desperately need everyday.

I'm the first teacher of the day to teach the 9th grade class, which gives me the title of the "Grade 9 class teacher." This means I take attendance every morning, help to organize the class special musics up front, plan the class campouts/picnics later in the year, and teach their Sabbath School class...

Just recently, most of us class teachers ordered uniform shirts for our classes. It was a challenge trying to pick a style and color that pleased the most students in my 9th grade class. I'm thankful that the shirts are in their hands now.

After chapel finishes, my students and I meander down the path and across the road to the Grade 9 & 10 building. Sometimes one my sweet 9th grader girls carries my Karen bag for me. The students don't seem to be in a hurry to get to their classroom. I've noticed that in general the Karen people are not as rushed about life.

I never know what to expect when I walk into the classroom. Somedays the students are hyper and happy, other times they are more sleepy and solemn. It's hard to tell what's on their minds a lot of the time. There are some days when I too am tired and don't really want to face all those students again.

Nevertheless, I try to begin the class with a cheery, "Good morning, students!" to which they echo back, "Good morning, teacher!" Once all the students have filtered into the classroom they stand to sing a song. Sometimes I teach them a new song or we just sing one they already know.

"Alright students, let's do our attendance." The students number themselves off and sit down when they call out their number. Then I usually nod to one of the students to have opening prayer.

Classes are full of different activities - phonics practice, vocabulary lessons, learning games, grammar lessons, and reading practice.

"Ok students -- please say after me - Think - t-h-i-n-k - think, thump - t-h-u-m-p - thump…"

"What is the superlative of big?  Yes, that's right - biggest. Good job!"

Sometimes I feel like I don't have enough to fill the 45-minute time period, but some days the ending bell rings much earlier than I expect.

After 9th grade class I walk back down the path to my hut to prepare for my next class - 10th grade.

10th grade is a much smaller class than my other two classes. It only has 11 students… they can be fun and challenging at the same time. Some of them aren't much younger than me--I even have a 20 year old in that class. Many times they act like they are much younger than they really are. It's nice to be able to do more interactive activities with 10th graders though, because of the fewer number or students to keep in line.

I have another 45 minute break between my 10th and 8th grade classes. It's nice to have some time to get a breather and finish up my lessons plans for the next class.

My 8th grade class can be very exciting at times. You see, it's the last class period of the day, so the students are a little more antsy to be finished with school for the morning. I have a lot of active, silly boys in that class. I've had to rearrange the seating a few times to separate some of the more talkative ones. I really like the 8th grade class though - there are a few more spiritually strong students in that class too.

At the end of class the teachers always say, "Thank you, class!" And the students heartily reply, "Thank you, teacher! See you tomorrow!" as they shuffle out of the classroom.

After my last class of the morning, I walk back to my hut with a grateful heart to God for helping me through yet another morning of teaching.

You know, even though I don't always enjoy teaching classes every single day…
Even though I feel very tired and worn out some days…
Even though there are situations that come up that I don't know how to handle…

I'm glad I'm here.
I'm glad for these opportunities to be stretched and challenged.
And I'm so thankful that God has not called me to do this alone.

He is always there to hold my hand, if I will only grasp it. I can be at peace.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Birthday Reflections

(I started writing this post on my birthday last week.)

This morning I was reading and pondering in my hammock...

I was reflecting over my 20th year of life that has now passed... It was a beautiful year filled with many blessings and abundant opportunities for growth.

I look back with happiness to the victories I've had. I also think back to the moments I've wasted. Oh that I could go back and re-live those moments. Such as the times when social media or other distractions replaced the time I could have spent in memorizing the Bible, whole-hearted service, or communion with my Savior. 

I have been struck with the thought that I must redeem the time now. We never know if we will have tomorrow. 

I read these inspiring words from the pen of Ellen White:

The new year has commenced, and with the commencement of this new year, you should dedicate yourselves to God. Now give yourself to him, soul, body, and spirit, to do his will. Let all selfishness...., all your faults, and besetting sins die with the old year. Begin this new year to the glory of God. Pray to him, morning, noon, and night, to give you a meek and humble spirit, a mild temper, an affectionate disposition. Live as you never lived before. Begin this new year with new feelings, fresh desires, and a strong determination to glorify God.  {YI, January 1, 1856 par. 2} 

This is my prayer--to live as never before. I pray that in this new year I will fully surrender my heart anew to my Savior - each and every moment of the day.

I want to live a life with no regrets...
 ~      ~      ~    
Here are a few of the highlights from my birthday:
  • A few my students started to sing snippets of "Happy Birthday" during class
  • Getting to talk with my dear family back in America between two of my classes
  • Handing out many different flavors of small ice cream popsicles to the eager 300+ students at lunch time. (Sometimes the teachers here buy or make something special for all the other staff and students on their birthday. I liked that idea and decided to buy the ice cream popsicles for them.)
  • Being surprised by fellow missionaries who sang to me and presented me with a cake covered with peanut butter frosting (You have to be pretty creative here in the mission field. We've come up with some pretty interesting and delicious concoctions.) 
  • Receiving many birthday messages from dear friends like you
  • And to top it all off - seeing the eclipse of the moon after evening worship
I have so much to be thankful for.

Our Recent Escapades

Here are a few random pictures from our recent escapades.

A few Sabbaths ago we enjoyed visiting some beautiful waterfalls near the school. 
The next day a group of us went on a strenuous 1-hour-long hike up to a pagoda at the top of a mountain. I think it was the steepest trail I've been on - the Karen boys we went with led us straight up the side of the mountain. It was very enjoyable even though we were covered in sweat, mud, and rain water by the end. Needless to say, we slept very well that night. (To read more about our adventures you can read Raquel's blog -

The spectacular view after our very strenuous hike up to a pagoda. It was worth the effort.

Me watching the girls slide down the rushing water slide

The kids love to have their picture taken.
K' Nyaw Paw enjoyed splashing us in this picture.

More posing girls

Here's two of my sweet eighth grader girls

Some of the girls and I went right underneath the base of the second waterfall we went to. 
It was amazing to watch the water cascading over the edge from below. The water coming down on us felt almost like a powerful massage. 

My mission partner and I in the mist of the waterfall 

The four happy water fighters. 
 Teachers can have fun too! :)

This was very refreshing!

Priceless expression 

Wet & dry at the same time

Another view at the top of the mountain
I loved the many different shades of green. 

I'm thankful for these girls!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Moments of Friendship

We're back into the busyness of unending lesson planning and teaching. Thankfully the pinkeye epidemic is ending. I've never been so thankful for healthy, pain-free eyes. 

I know that I will greatly miss this place when I leave. I am beginning to build stronger friendships with the students. I enjoy those special friendship moments. 

Like when Naw Nu Nu, one of my 10th graders, asked to have a bath with me in our little outhouse. So yes, that's what we did - in our bathing sarongs of course. :) She chatted to me in broken English while we sudsed up. I was able to learn more about her. There's one thing we disagreed on - She loves durian, and I do not like durian (at least not yet). She also says she wants to preach the Gospel in Burma, for which I am very glad. 

Or the time Sharon and I went for a run down the country road that borders the school. We passed by fields of growing rice, loud motorbikes, and friendly people walking by. We then cleared the path up to the banana hill with machetes to get some more exercise. At the top of the hill, we talked about our students while we got moistened by the gentle rain and enjoyed the view I never tire of. (It's the same view as the picture at the top of my blog.)

Or the time after supper when I was coming down the steps from the Stecks house and noticed two of my 8th graders shyly waiting for me near my hut. They had come to visit Raquel and I until the time came for evening worship. We walked arm in arm for the last few steps to my hut. We shared smiles and laughs and they taught me a few words in Karen (of which I've forgotten already). 

Or special evening prayer times and talk times with my mission partner - Raquel. It's been meaningful sharing our hearts with our Savior together and praying for our friends and family. 

Or Sabbath afternoon story time on the sandy beach by the river with friends. We were reading an old favorite - Nyla and the White Crocodile. The breeze felt great and the view of the beautiful mountains topped it off. 

Or when July Paw slipped her arm through mine and looked up at me with her sweet ever-ready smile as we walked out of the missionary meeting on Sabbath night.

I'm especially thankful for my Friend that sticks closer than a brother. I've been soaking up the moments I've had with just Him and I lately. There's nothing that tops that experience. Oh, that I would prioritize this time more in my life.

Being so far across the ocean from my dear ones in the US has caused me to realize even more how privileged I am to have Jesus in my life. 

He's loves us more than anyone else in the whole world. 
He's that Friend that we all want and need. 
He will never ever let us down. 
He's never too busy to talk. 
He's always there.

I encourage you to get to know Him better. You won't regret it. 

 Riding in the back of a truck is normal here.
We had just finished eating delicious Thai food at a nearby restaurant. 

Campus & Kids

This afternoon I took some more pictures to post. Hope you enjoy!

  A view near my hut. The garden area is where the old girl's dorm used to be. 

 The chapel that fits over 300 students plus teachers - it is quite crowded.

 Our little hut from a different angle

Our hut and the steep rock steps that go up to the Stecks house. 

 This is where the student's get their rice every meal. 
(I'll try to get a picture at a mealtime sometime, to show you the long line.)

 My afternoon computer class

 The creek where we bathe with the girls sometimes. 

There are a lot of dogs that roam this campus. 

Clothes hanging out to dry at a teacher's home. 

 A little guy who has been hanging out on our porch for the last few days. He has a bone disease--both his legs are broken right now--and yet he is still smiles. 
(You can read more about him on Raquel's blog -
The children's home (Adams house)

The newest little addition to the children's home. Her name means "Sweet, Sweet Flower."

Ninga peeking around the pole

He finally let me take a better picture of him. 

Ku Ku Paw's cheesy smile

I think this butterfly likes purple too. 

I'm so thankful for the simple beauty in nature.